With two games of the regular season remaining, Vancouver Whitecaps are only assured of one thing right now – they’re in the playoffs.
Exactly where they’ll end up in the postseason positioning is still very much up for grabs. The Whitecaps could still finish anywhere from first to sixth in the Western Conference, which in itself is crazy to think after the year that the ‘Caps have had.
Vancouver currently sit in third place in the West, equalling their best ever points total of their MLS era. With an away trip to Dallas and a home game to Houston coming up, realistically, the ‘Caps should finish on 53 points, based on a loss and a win.
Looking at the tiebreakers and those around, that would guarantee them a top five finish at least. Of course, predicting the results of football matches, especially at this stage of a season, is a mug’s game. If it wasn’t, my fixed odds coupon would have come up about a gazillion more times that it ever has and have you ever seen a poor bookie?
All that said, we’re going to give it a go!
Casting our eye over all the fixtures remaining for all the teams, we’re going with Dallas to win the West on 57 points, with Sporting KC coming second on 55, LA third on 54 and then that’s where it gets really interesting.
By our reckoning, Vancouver and Seattle will be battling it out for 4th on 53 points and will face each other in the first round of the playoffs. Where that will be played is very well going to come down to goal difference and I think Seattle will shade that.
We also think RSL will come good at just the right time and edge out Portland for 6th on goal difference.
Accurate or total bollocks? You can let us know below, but we’ll soon find out, and part of it will be played out tonight in Dallas.
Banged up, beat up, out of form and looking for someone to step up and be the goalscoring hero, it’s all about points and positioning now for the Whitecaps, a fact not missing from everyone at the club.
“We’re in at the moment, and that’s the pleasing thing about it,” ‘Caps coach Carl Robinson told reporters at Vancouver airport on Monday. “With two games to go, we’re in. Now we just need to regroup, refocus, get our minds right and see where we go from here.
“The focus is to finish as high as we can. That’s never changed from the first game of the season. There’s different factors that affect that. Us and Dallas are two teams up the top that are competing. They want it as well as we do. They’re healthy, we’re not healthy. It is what it is.
“We’ll regroup. We know what we need to do. We’ll go there and we’ll try and be tough to beat, with the right mentality, because it is playoff mentality now. We’ve got two league games left but really the playoffs start now.”
Momentum, being in-form, confidence. Call it what you like, but the ‘Caps are desperately needing to find some of it heading in to the playoffs.
Last year, Vancouver headed into the postseason on the back of four wins and 13 points from their last five matches. We all know how horribly that ended up once the playoffs began, but it certainly makes for a better mindset than the current form of no wins in their last four and only two points and blown opportunities to show for their efforts.
“Having made the playoffs already, our goal now is to get a couple of wins,” is left back Jordan Harvey’s take. “We don’t want to just coast into the playoffs. We want to build some momentum. Going in [to Dallas], without a doubt, we’re going for three points. Are we disappointed if we get a draw? Probably not, but the goal is to get three points and build momentum.”
Ravaged by injuries and players away on international duty, along with no wins in Dallas, or any other part of Texas for that matter, Vancouver coming away with anything tonight would be an amazing achievement. It would also likely secure them a best ever top four finish and the much sought after home playoff game.
Not that simply going into Frisco and playing for a point is likely to be the ‘Caps gameplan. That’s not through Robinson’s tactics but the mindset of his players.
“I don’t think we’ve got the type of players that can play there and try and get a point,” Robinson admitted. “We’ve got players that will want to try and win games.”
As much as I’d bite your hand off for a point right now, it is better to go in looking for the win, as that makes it easier to try and fight back if you fall behind. Too often under Martin Rennie’s teams did the ‘Caps go in defensively, fall behind, then have no clue how to change things around.
The other huge obstacle for the ‘Caps right now is absences. Not so much the fringe players away internationally, but the series of injuries that has decimated the creativity of the team. Pedro Morales and Nicolas Mezquida haven’t made the trip to Texas. Mauro Rosales and Cristian Techera have, but both are still nursing injuries and haven’t trained since limping off during last week’s 0-0 home draw with Dallas.
The Whitecaps now face the dilemma of do you rush these players back to try and secure points and positioning or do you rest them and save them for the playoffs, possibly giving up a home playoff game as a result?
“We have a couple of guys banged up and nicked up,” rookie Tim Parker told AFTN. “We do want to get as many points as we can. I think we have the depth on the road to get points regardless, but I also think that it’s important that we save some of the guys that we so that they don’t injure themselves further.”
But even if things don’t play out in Vancouver’s favour and they have to start the playoffs away from BC Place, Parker has no fear or concerns.
“We’ve been really good on the road this year,” he added. “Of course we want to get a home playoff game for the fans but I don’t think we’re afraid if we get a road playoff game at all.”
Neither they should be, but with that last away win coming on August 1st, that previously amazing road form doesn’t quite look as formidable as it did a few months ago. Let’s just hope it doesn’t even come to discussing that.